Dustin Wahl, Paige Cutler and Alexander Forbes are students at Liberty University.
In January, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald Trump for president of the United States. As Liberty students, we watched as the leader of our school loudly and proudly advocated for a man many of us felt compelled to oppose. Trump’s flagrant dishonesty, consistent misogyny and boastful unrepentance made many of us feel the need to publicly express disagreement with President Falwell’s endorsement.
Mark DeMoss, the chair of Liberty’s executive committee, spoke to The Post in March to tactfully do just that. Criticizing Trump’s “politics of personal insult,” DeMoss said: “It’s not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”
But such criticism of Trump did not sit well with President Falwell. After making these statements, DeMoss was asked to resign from the executive committee, and he opted to leave both that post and the school’s board of trustees, abruptly ending his decades-long career of service to Liberty University.
In part because our leaders were not allowed to publicly criticize Trump’s words and actions, many of us as students felt the need to speak out. We want the world to know that Liberty University is a great place to go to school and that many in the student body find Trump’s character and values objectionable.
Last week we began circulating a statement titled “Liberty United Against Trump” expressing our opposition to President Falwell’s endorsement and disassociating ourselves from Trump. In the days since, more than 2,000 Liberty students and faculty have signed the statement.
We deeply disagree with President Falwell’s enthusiastic support for a man such as Trump, but we understand that he is not alone among evangelical Christian leaders. Many of them believe that Christianity is under attack in the United States and that our nation’s moral fiber is weakening by the day. Additionally, many believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency would result in a liberal Supreme Court that could take away religious liberties.
Perhaps these things are true. Like many people, we who are writing believe Clinton has proved herself untrustworthy with political power. We do not trust her judgment in choosing Supreme Court justices, and we understand why so many Christians are afraid. The future is uncertain.
Yet we feel that too many in the church have been bitten by election-year hysteria. Since the birth of Christ, Christians have withstood far more serious trials and tribulations than we face today. First-century Christians faced coliseums filled with lions; today, American Christians face the possibility of a liberal Supreme Court. The Christian message of salvation through faith in Christ has prevailed despite actual threats, from actual tyrants, and it will continue to thrive no matter who is elected president in 2016.
This knowledge is encouraging, considering the main options on the ballot. If Clinton has proved to be dishonest, Trump has given dishonesty new meaning. Evangelical conservatives who vote for Trump to get a favorable Supreme Court must realize that doing so requires trusting the words of the most unabashedly untruthful presidential candidate in modern history. Trump has changed his position on nearly every issue of importance at least once, sometimes mid-speech. There is little reason to believe that he is worried about the same issues we are. It makes more sense to believe that Trump is happy many Christians are worried because it allows him to do what all demagogues do: offer strength in a time of fear.
Trump is the antithesis of our values; there is no reason to revisit his vices here. Most non-Christians recognize Trump as amoral and self-centered. If we ignore this fact and buy in to his promise of strength, what will it tell the world about how seriously we Christians esteem our values?
Thankfully, there are other options in 2016. Elections are not about choosing the perfect candidate, but about choosing the best candidate on the ballot. We ought to take a close look at all the options and vote for the candidate who best embodies our values. This person may have little chance of winning or not be a traditional option, but such a vote would not be wasted. A wasted vote is one that contradicts one’s conscience.
If we allow fear to make us choose a candidate who embodies what we oppose, we allow fear to win the day. Fear should never decide elections; as Christians, we believe that values should. We encourage everyone to take their conscience with them into the voting booth. Vote for your values, not against your fears.
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